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Baguazhang (pakua kungfu) : 10 Questions to Grandmaster Wong

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  • #31
    Interesting like playing chess.
    - Sifu


    With Shaolin Salute,
    Lee Wei Joo


    • #32
      Sigung's description of Baguazhang's strategy for dealing with multiple attackers suddenly made the arts "Nine Palaces Formation" and "Going Through the Woods" much more vivid and alive. Wow!

      I'm sure more people have questions about this beautiful art. I don't want to steal any more question slots!
      I like making silly videos (including kung fu ones!) every so often on YouTube and taking pictures of weird things on Instagram.


      • #33
        Baguazhang Question-Answer 4


        Question 4

        Sifu, what is the highest attainment in Baguazhang?

        Sifu Matt Fenton


        The answer is subjective. Different people may give different answers within its range of possibility. To say that the highest attainment in Baguazhang is to become a millionaire, for example, is incorrect because becoming a millionaire is outside its range of possibility, though its benefits may have indirectly contributed to the millionaire’s skill in making money.

        The achievements of all martial arts fall under one, two or all of these three categories:

        1. Combat efficiency.
        2. Good health.
        3. Spiritual cultivation.

        Combat efficiency is the basis of any martial art. If one practices a martial art and is unable to defend himself, we can rightly say that what he practices is not genuine. Shockingly, the great majority of martial artists in the world fall under this below-par category. Either they exchange blows generously, which means they cannot defend themselves, or worse, they do not even know how to exchange blows.

        Many martial arts, when practiced genuinely, only provide combat efficiency, but not good health and spiritual cultivation. As they fulfill only one of the three categories of benefits, we call them third-class or mediocre martial arts. Examples are Boxing, Kick-Boxing, Karate, Taekwondo, Mixed Martial Arts, Wrestling, Judo and Muay Thai.

        Indeed, their practice is detrimental to health and spiritual cultivation. Most such martial artists are frequently in pain and endure internal injuries, which are detrimental to health, and are often angry and stressful, which are detrimental to spiritual cultivation.

        Some martial arts contribute to combat efficiency and good health, which includes vitality and longevity, but not to spiritual cultivation. As they fulfill two of the three categories of benefits, we call them second-class or good martial arts. Examples are external styles of kungfu, like Choy-Li-Fatt, Wing Choon, Hoong Ka, Tantui, Praying Mantis and Eagle Claw.

        Many of the masters of these styles are highly spiritual. They have internal force, and are generally peaceful and happy, which indicate spiritual development. But this is an exception – they are masters, and they form a very small percentage of the total number of practitioners. Their external training has gradually evolved to become internal, which contributes to their spiritual cultivation, or they were selected for special internal training.

        Some martial arts contribute to all these three categories of benefits of combat efficiency, good health and spiritual cultivation. As they fulfill all the three categories of benefits, we call them first-class or great martial arts. Examples are internal styles of kungfu, like Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, Wuzuquan, Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu.

        Amongst these great arts, Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu are a class above because they lead to the highest spiritual attainment, referred to as merging with the Tao, seeing the Original Face, or in Western terms returning to God the Holy spirit. The other great aims do not purposefully aim at this attainment, but their training, often without the practitioners’ conscious knowing, cultivates the practitioner’s spirit.

        This is so because their training is internal, which is the cultivation of essence, energy and spirit, whereas the training of the second-class martial arts is external, which is the cultivation of tendons, bones and muscles. Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are special because they actually evolved from the highest spiritual cultivation to see the Original Face or to merge with the Tao.

        (Part 2 follows)
        Daniel Pérez


        • #34
          Baguazhang Question-Answer 4 - Part 2


          (Continued from Part 1)

          On the other hand, the training of third-class martial artists, by their own definition, is taking punishment, like striking their fists or legs against poles, and pushing their abilities to their limits like lifting weights, running and rope skipping, which insidiously damage both their body and their spirit.

          It is a pity that many martial artists do not realize this philosophy, and damage themselves physically and spiritually without their own knowing. In the past when samurais fought for their lords for a living, or in the present when young Muay Thai fighters fight in a ring to feed their parents’ families, their sacrifice is justified, though lamentable. But it is just folly due to ignorance when people submit themselves to such suffering as a hobby.

          In my opinion, the greatest achievement in Baguazhang is attaining longevity with good health, vitality and agility. Many Baguazhang masters live beyond eighty. Not only they are also healthy and fit, they can still perform their Baguazhang excellently, including rolling on the floor. Their remarkable achievement is no co-incidence. Their Baguazhang training has contributed to these attainments.

          As I have said, the answer is subjective. It is influenced by personal choice and values. Some people may regard combat efficiency as Baguazhang’s highest attainment, others may regard it as spiritual cultivation.

          Personally, while I agree that Baguazhang is highly efficient for combat, it still does not have the breadth and depth of Shaolin Kungfu, or even Wudang Taijiquan. The two highest regarded arts, chin-na and dim mark, are found in Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Taijiquan, but not in Baguazhang, at least not in the Baguazhang that is popularly practiced, though Baguazhang classics mention that the 72 Shaolin chin-na techniques are hidden in it.

          Perhaps the highest martial art attainment a Baguazhang master can achieve is “Strike Across Space Palm”. But even the training for this art has to be borrowed from Shaolin.

          The levels of spiritual attainments of practicing Baguazhang are high. Despite being powerful and highly combat efficient, Baguazhang practitioners are generally peace-loving, soft-spoken, kind and happy. These are no mean achievements, especially considering that many martial artists today are stressful and angry – at other people and at themselves.

          But Baguazhang training by itself will not lead to the highest spiritual attainment of merging with the Supreme Realtiy. If a Baguazhang master attains this most noble achievement, it is through other means, like Shaolin Zen meditation or Taijiquan Taoist silence-sitting.

          Nevertheless, Baguazhang or any other martial art in our school is different. What is not originally available in any art, is attainable by us in that art. With our breath and depth, we can, for example, employ Baguazhang for chin-na and dim mark. We can practice what we call a third-class martial art like Karate as first-class giving us combat efficiency as well as good health and spiritual cultivation. It is not for no reason that we claim ourselves to be elite.

          But, of course, it will be more cost-effective if we use an art that is specially designed for the purpose, like Wudang Taijiquan.
          Daniel Pérez


          • #35
            Dear all,

            One more answer from Sifu:

            Question 5

            What is the main thing or key point that Sifu has learned or discovered while reviewing, practicing and teaching Baguazhang?

            Sifu Matt Fenton


            I have learnt many interesting things about Baguazhang when I prepared to teach Baguazhang at the UK summer Camp 2012. These invaluable lessons not only enrich my teaching of Baguazhang but also enrich my teaching as well as my own performance and understanding of other kungfu styles

            As I did not learn Baguazhang formally from a teacher, my understanding of Baguazhang was vague and haphazard. I knew that unlike Shaolin Kungfu, there were not many Baguzzhang sets. In fact I heard that there was only one set, Swimming Dragon Baguazhang Set. I also knew that the core of Baguazhang was the eight Mother Palms, and that there were 64 characteristic Baguazhang techniques.

            Apart from this general information, my understanding of the Baguazhang was haphazard. So I decided to make an extensive as well as in-depth study of the art. Fortunately I have a good collection of Baguazhang classics, most of which were bought years ago but I did not really study them. After deciding to teach Baguazhang I visited many book shops to buy more of Baguazhang books, but unfortunately nowadays books on any kungfu philosophy and in-depth practice are sorely lacking.

            On the other hand, I could get a lot of material from the internet, especially from YouTube. However, one must be careful that much of the material is mediocre. There is also some very good material. From all this information I could have a clear picture of Baguazhang.

            One of the most rewarding things I have learnt about Baguazhang is to use the Mother Palms and Circle Walking of Baguazhang for developing internal force. Interestingly, I picked up this idea not from Baguazhang classics or videos but from a classic on Praying Mantis Kungfu! There was a mention that certain Praying Mantis patterns could be held in a fixed position like in stance training for developing internal force. Another classic on Northern Shaolin describes holding certain Northern Shaolin patterns in a fixed position, and when tired move on to another pattern in another fixed position, and so on in a circle.

            This led to my thinking of the eight Mother Palms and Circle Walking in Baguazhang. I tired out the training myself and was amazed at the tremendous amount of internal force created. This gave me a likely answer to my question which I had asked myself in the past, i.e. how did Bagauzhang masters had so much internal force. There was no much mention of internal force training in Baguazhang classics. I went into meditation and had signals that past Baguazhang masters did the same training method that I tried out.

            Hence, I was very happy when later I read in one of the Baguazhang classics, Internal School of Baguazhang by Ngai Cheng Woh, that strongly suggested that using the Mother Palms and Circle Walking was an important method of force training in Baguazhang. As it is typical in kungfu classics, the master did not explicitly say so. He merely listed two sets of Mother Palms, the external set which is frequently shown in Baguazhang literature, and the internal set which has never been shown.

            Readers without background knowledge would probably miss this very important information. They may even argue that the internal set the master showed was not genuine as they have never practiced it or never seen it. When visitors to YouTube say that our combat applications are useless, because they do not know how to use them, you can have a picture of how easily people miss useful information even when it is generously given.

            It is worthy of note that many of the hand patterns of the internal Mother Palms are similar to those in our Shaolin Kungfu stance training though the stances are different, like Two Dragons Embrace Sun, Unicorn Carries Moon and Lohan Carries Water. In Shaolin Kungfu we use the Bow-Arrow Stance, the Unicorn Stance and the Horse-Riding Stance respectively, whereas in Baguazhang the typical Baguazhang Stance is used.

            We tried out this secret Baguazhang force training method at the Baguazhang course during the UK Summer Camp 2012, and course participants were amazed at its effectiveness.
            (Part 2 follows)
            Daniel Pérez


            • #36
              (Continued from Part 1)

              Another very rewarding thing that I learned while preparing for the 2012 Baguazhang course and which participants verified at the course, is using chi flow in Circle Walking. This is related to but not the same as using the Mother Palms to develop internal force. In internal force development, practitioners move from one stance or Mother Palm to another, after staying at a particular stance for some time. The Circle Walking is transitional. In using chi flow in Circle Walking, the walking is the main training; practitioners do not stop at any stances.

              The key point here is not just Circle Walking, which is performed by all Baguazhang practitioners, but using chi to do the walking, which I believe only Baguazhang masters could do but without their conscious knowing. At the Baguazhang course 2012, all participants were taught how to use chi to do their Circle Walking, and all did very well.

              What is the difference between using chi to do the Circle Walking and using muscles to do the Circle Walking as done by other practitioners? When you use chi to do the walking, you can be very fast and agile, yet you are not tired. When you use muscles to do the walking, you are not as fast and agile, and you become tired more easily.

              Using chi to do Circle Walking was never mentioned in Baguazhang classics, but it is a natural progression in our training. To others it is impossible; to us it is natural. Why is it so? Yes, it is because of the magic of chi flow.

              A third very rewarding thing I have discovered while preparing to teach Baguazhang was the combat application of some strange looking Baguazhang patterns like Cloud Dragon Rushes to Sky, Cloud Dragon Returns Head, Horizontally Bar Rushing Horse, and Lift Hand Touch Sky.

              I have been well known for my ability to see combat applications of patterns where many other people would not have the faintest idea. Yet, I was amazed by both the beauty and sophistication of many Baguazhang combat applications.

              Take Cloud Dragon Rushes to Sky, for example. What function could be served by bending the body in an awkward position and lifting one hand high up? I am quite sure that many participants at the Baguazhang course of 2012 were astonished when the combat applications of this and some other apparently flowery Baguazhang patterns were revealed.

              Turning about is frequently seen in Baguazhang performance. At first I wondered why a Baguazhang exponent should turn his body in combat, as it would make his movement slower and also it would expose his back to his opponent. I was sure there must be a good reason for the turning, but at first I could not find out the reason.

              When preparing to teach Baguazhang, the reason revealed itself. While generally it would be disadvantageous to turn the body, there were situations when such turning would be advantageous. It would actually make the execution of some patterns faster, and enable the exponent to be safer.

              So, there are many things or key points I have learned while preparing to teach Baguazhang. But, to answer the question directly, what is the main thing or key point amongst these many things and key points? It is the discovery that a typical Baguazhang pattern has three planes, whereas a Taijiquan pattern has two, and a Shaolin pattern has one.

              To illustrate this point, let us take the typical Baguazhang pattern, Green Dragon Tests Claw. When a Baguazhang exponent performs this pattern in the left mode, i.e. with the leg hand and left leg in front, if his legs are aligned to the north, his body is aligned to north-west, and his hands are aligned to the west. Hence, there are three planes – north, north-west and west.

              When a Taijiquan exponent, facing north, performs Immortal Waves Sleeves, for example, his legs and body are aligned to the north, and his hands are aligned to north-west. There are two planes – north and north-west.

              When a Shaolin exponent, facing north, performs Single Tiger Emerges from Cave, for example, there is only one plane. His legs, body and hands are all aligned to the north.

              This interesting point was never mentioned in the classics. Future martial artists will find history in this answer. I believe that Baguazhang employing three planes was evolved from actual experience. Baguazhang masters found using three planes instead of one or two enabled them to be more effective in certain aspect of combat.

              What do you think is this aspect? Yes, it enables a Baguazhang exponent to attack the back of an opponent more effectively – a hallmark Baguazhang is famous for.
              Daniel Pérez


              • #37
                I love how Sigung can so clearly write, speak, and teach the essence of his arts. These Q&A threads, to say nothing of the trimonthly Q&A's and this discussion forum are truly modern classics.

                Sigung talked a bit about Baguazhang's three planes at last year's UK Summer Camp, especially when he was first teaching us Green Dragon Stretches Claws. He mentioned one of the health benefits of the three planes was a gentle stretching of the body, even in zhan zhuang. Curiously, one of my books about Baguazhang notes that portraits and depictions of Dong Hai Chuan often show him turning one of his legs out to one side, apparently to stimulate leg meridians and stretch at the same time.
                I like making silly videos (including kung fu ones!) every so often on YouTube and taking pictures of weird things on Instagram.


                • #38
                  Only five questions asked?

                  Dear family,

                  I had an interesting experience practicing the fifth Baguazhang sequence tonight. I was emphasizing moving from the dan tian and suddenly, as if by magic, directly experienced what Sigung said earlier:

                  Originally posted by Sigung
                  For us the root is at the dan tian. When we strike, our force issues from the dan tian. When we are advanced and our whole body is charged with energy, the root can be at the wrist. When we strike our force issues from our wrist, though eventually it comes from the dan tian. As soon as our force is expended in our strike, energy from the Cosmos flows in to fill our dan tian and other parts of our body when force has been used. We can do this because of our chi flow.
                  I could feel a constant flow of energy from my dan tian all the way out to my hands, especially when doing patterns such as Wild Horse Charges Stable and Fierce Tiger Descends Mountains, instead of just feeling it at my hands or locked up elsewhere along the five gates. I must be a slow learner, but I got there eventually.

                  It looks like only five questions were asked. I don't suppose more people have some burning questions they'd like answered by our beloved Grandmaster about this amazing martial art? I'm sure I could come up with a couple more, but I already stole (and benefited immensely from) an in-depth answer earlier.
                  I like making silly videos (including kung fu ones!) every so often on YouTube and taking pictures of weird things on Instagram.


                  • #39
                    Dear Brother,

                    Congratulations, and thanks for sharing.

                    As the Baguazhang taster is already over, I'm not sure if the Q&A is still open.
                    Either way, you won't be stealing nobody's questions if you do ask any. You waited long enough

                    Or you can send Sifu and email, and ask your question.

                    Best regards,